[Review] Long Riders!

Long Riders! is a delightful anime that began airing during the previous 2016 season in October. It was scheduled to complete on schedule in December, but the last two episodes were postponed until February of this year. The show features college girls who enjoy long distance cycling. When I first noticed this anime, I thought it might more closely resemble Yowamushi Pedal, another cycling manga and anime that has become incredibly popular in Japan. While both works center on the bicycle, they differ greatly in terms of topic, setting, and voice. I value each for their contribution, but found myself better appreciating the emotions inspired by Long Riders! 

The Perfect Cycling Advertisement (in a Good Way)

As a whole, this anime feels much more educational with all the time spent teaching Ami about the ins and outs of riding. The show takes into account not only the mechanics of gear and cycling techniques, but also discusses the importance of both personal preparation and studying weather conditions. Ami starts her cycling hobby with a folding bicycle, which is designed for commuting. The bike folds easily and can be carried onto other modes of transportation and into buildings. Once she meets Hinako and Yayoi and starts going on rides as a group, she purchases a road bicycle. Road bikes are optimized for speed on paved roads, allowing Ami to mostly keep up with her friends and further improve her endurance.

The show does a wonderful job of explaining the many possible scenarios a rider might experience, such as switching out a flat tire, changing gears, preparing for rides with sleep and food, wearing reflective clothing and lights at night, and avoiding slippery surfaces in the rain. It was comical watching this show with KWoo, who is himself a cyclist. A situation would come up, he would comment on his own experiences, and then the girls would usually follow with the exact same advice for Ami. The realistic portrayal of the sport greatly improved my opinion of the anime (in comparison, I still rage at Yowamushi Pedal’s incorrect examples of drafting). 

Long Riders! revolves around non-competitive long distance riding, hence its title. Instead of racing one another or other groups, our girls form their own circle, dubbed Team Fortuna, and pick and choose their own routes. Ami is free to go at her own pace as she learns how to strengthen her body and spirit. The one instance where we see the team hurried is during an organized event where checkpoints remain open for a designated amount of time. This shift away from competition completely changes the voice of the show. Instead of dragging the audience through long-winded speeches in between points of a given race like most sports anime, Long Riders! opts for a laid back attitude that invites the viewer to relax and appreciate more than the bike and its rider. We’re allowed to marvel at scenery, delightful snacks along a route, and the team members’ chemistry with one another.

Very early on the show, Ami realizes how much more fun she has cycling with friends than by herself. While she enjoys the sense of freedom she has out on the road, she also misses the camaraderie, advice, and safety provided by her friends. Together, they can better appreciate a special view gained through sweat, or the sweet and salty foods eaten after a strenuous stretch of road. As Ami improves as a cyclist and becomes closer to her teammates, her view of possibilities widens. A distance that once seemed unreachable becomes a realistic target. There’s a satisfying sense of accomplishment watching her grow and Team Fortuna set higher and higher goals. They encourage me to pursue my own objectives, and I even feel a slight draw to trying cycling despite never being interested before watching this show. That the anime is able to extract such strong emotions from me speaks well of the production quality.

Now for Some Criticism and Final Thoughts

Speaking from a visual standpoint, Long Riders! is not special. The art is average, and almost every time we see the girls cycling from a distance, CG animation takes over. But I don’t knock the series for either factor since the art remains mostly consistent in its simplicity and the CG logically assists at the most active points. I find myself instead focusing on the writing and solid voice acting, both of which draw me into the setting full of excitement and curiosity for the next ride.

When the delay on the last two episodes was announced, I was worried that we might have either an incomplete story, or a significant drop in the overall quality of the ending. I also tend to completely forget about any built-up sentiment when too many weeks (even months) between episodes pass. Thankfully, that was not the case with Long Riders! Team Fortuna’s joy in adventure captured me immediately again and I was ready for another twelve episodes to finish out this winter, despite the two-day Shimanami Kaido ride and the promise of a new member in Miyu wrapping up the series perfectly.

I highly recommend you give this show a try if you, too, appreciate or crave uplifting messages of self-improvement and teamwork. You do not need any prior knowledge of bicycles or a preference for sports anime to enjoy this series.

Rating: 2 dango

Next: Paris-Brest-Paris and Team Fortuna, anyone?

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.
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8 thoughts on “[Review] Long Riders!

  1. Actas can do a pretty good job with those last two episodes when they get an extra month, can’t they. And this was faster than Girls und Panzer, which took almost 3 extra months for the last two episodes. And with Regalia, they just gave up 5 episodes into the season and said “We’re going to start over…”

    I personally like the way Actas blends the CG into their shows, so I really didn’t mind it in Long Riders here. In general, I don’t mind CG, except when it’s jarringly out of place, and in a show about cycling, I don’t think it is. I actually really liked how much effort they put in the last two episodes for things like the dismounts and takeoffs. The choice for things like that isn’t “CG or key animation”. Realistically, it’s “CG or cut to a different static shot.”

    I really enjoyed the series, and it’s one of those things where I’d love to go cycling, but 1) I haven’t done any cycling in 20 years, 2) I don’t really want to drop a few grand on a bike and other sundry equipment, and 3) I’m just not comfortable riding on roadways at all. While there are some connected bike lanes around here, there just aren’t enough to do it as a “go out and ride” kind of thing. Maybe in a few years I might, but I don’t know. But I’m still a bit spooked after dislocating my shoulder in a bike crash in college.

    But back to the series, it did make me want to enjoy cycling, and I enjoyed the adventures these girls went on, and it was a lot better than the SPOOOOORTS!!!!! anime style of YowaPeda. I thought that maybe there was a little too much whining by Ami throughout the series. Suck it up, there are hills. You live in Japan. The whole place is hills! So about 3/4 through the series I was a bit tired of Ami’s mercurial nature – amazed and happy one minute, whinging about a 3% grade (which isn’t nothing, but isn’t the end of the world) the next – but that’s the way she was. I’m also wondering how much of a stud Yayoi could be. She led the whole freakin’ time! Make Saki or Hinako or Aoi take a turn! And eventually, Ami needs to take a turn. I know they mentioned pacing and drafting the one time during the Azumi Autumn Ride, but I think they might have made a little more deal out of it, especially because it makes it so much easier for a rider like Ami.

    Thanks for writing about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do wish more shows would take notes from shows like this regarding using CG, since Long Riders! applies it at the most appropriate times in a way that I can’t complain about. It is nice when anime switch things up by balancing out static shots and CG.

      I am disappointed that we didn’t get to see a more serious bicycle accident in this series, since it seems like everyone has experienced one at least once in their lifetime. I know I would be uncertain about going back on the road again if I had ever dislocated a shoulder like you. I also know far too many cyclists by no fault of their own who have been hit by cars. That’s part of what holds me back from trying it out since I live on a pretty busy main road that leads up to the highway.

      I have to agree with you on Ami’s character. She did bounce around a lot between either whining about minor things to floating in the clouds over food and pretty views. She’s really very lucky to have such loyal and patient friends!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think they did pretty well, relatively speaking, with the idea of a bike crash. You could argue it both ways with the one they talked about for Saki: It was too easily glossed over that she fell 30 feet but landed somewhere soft and was uninjured, or that they did take the time to talk about proper posture and the reasons for it and that Ami was definitely concerned about the idea of a crash. I thought they also handled the part in the last episode well with Ami becoming very scared about riding in the dark.

        I wonder if part of it is the difference in just the reality of roads in Japan vs roads in the US. Travel speeds in Japan are much lower, and there is much less of a “Roads are (only) for Cars!!!!” attitude from what I see of Japanese society. Despite the halting efforts of some highway departments (with which I’m very familiar, since my job is roadway design), there just are not many connected bike routes and paths. And it’s a very chicken / egg thing. “Why are you putting a bike route on this road? Nobody rides their bike on this road, it’s too dangerous!” Or “There aren’t any other bike routes that connect to it, what good is this one?” Which is kind of exactly the point. It’s hard to convince people that people would like to ride bikes when they don’t see it already happening, but when they have to brave traffic, it’s not hard to realize why people wouldn’t ride. And using the lack of connected bikeways as a reason to not build any in the first place is a completely circular argument. Anyway, I could talk for days about the contradictions in roadway planning and design.

        But along with the infrastructure for bike travel in the US, what I think is as bad or worse is the contempt with which so many drivers consider cyclists. Most people have been held up by cyclists no more than a total of 30 seconds cumulative in their entire life (as far as the time to reach their destinations), but so many people just get so frustrated with cyclists whenever they encounter them. Honking, swerving at them, swearing at them, even terrorizing them for miles. I won’t say that there aren’t behaviors of cyclists that deserve some disapproval, such as lane splitting and re-passing cars at stoplights, or even protests and actions intended to piss off people, like double-line pacing and instigating incidents, but it’s incontrovertible which side has the power of the 2 ton vehicle. But there’s a culture there that you get lumped into if you decide to start cycling, for better or worse, and I think some of that might turn a lot of people off to cycling.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting how many different tolerance levels there are among members of anime viewers regarding cgi; for me and cgi I am generally okay with “non living things” being shown (bus,car,plane, building, whatever) but I have the most difficult time with people. And the scenes with the cgi hair in this series just jarred me out of the story almost every … single … time. A small side point, perhaps.

    Back to the series though, while I generally appreciate the type of story it portrays for whatever reasons I felt unable to connect with … well … any of the characters, least alone Ami. And that got in the way of many being able to enjoy the series as a whole. I wonder about it though … I know a fair number of other bloggers who reallh enjoyed this one,and my inability to do so just may be one of those things that happens now and again.

    Of course, it could be partly due to the non-Japanese sports themed anime thing I mentioned some time ago (except for ping pong 😄 ).

    Even so … good review. Thanks for the writeup. ^^

    Liked by 1 person

    • CG hair bothers me, as well, since it too often looks extremely different from how the hair usually looks. In all-CG shows like Sidonia or Ronya, I don’t mind since the character’s design remains the same throughout the entire show and I have nothing else to compare against.

      I wonder what it was about the girls here that prevented you from connecting with them. Perhaps because we really didn’t get any backstory on any of them? We’re presented with a pretty flat representation of their personalities.

      Like

      • I really liked the all-CG presentation of Arpeggio of Blue Steel for that exact reason: The battle scenes were able to blend in with the rest of the show completely, because it wasn’t a change.

        It’s interesting how hair has changed a lot in CG. One thing to notice in a show like Love Live!, especially the first season, is how much limper the hair was in the CGI parts of the coreography, as opposed to the unrealistically fluffy and moving hair in the Key Animation closeups. But it’s also interesting to note that as Love Live! developed further, they brought them together, as well as developing techniques to seamlessly transition from CGI to Key in a single camera movement.

        Like

      • Hard to say … although the lack of backstory might have contributed.

        Another possibility is that perhaps it will be one of those series that I will appreciate some time down the line. I have had it happen that when a series aired it just did not click, but a year or however long later on when I would check it out again on a whim it suddenly would.

        We will see….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I also wanted to comment about the ending song for Long Riders! I know that a lot of anime songs are pretty simplistic, and it’s certainly not the most lyrically challenging (that’s why I can translate it!), but the ED song really gets to what the show was about: Good weather, good friends, enjoying your time together, cycling, and eating ice cream!

    Liked by 1 person

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